One has to believe the members of the Great Lakes Region realize how good they have it. Not only do they enjoy events run as tightly as a boot camp graduation, but they also get to race at world-class tracks like National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Well, you can add Pittsburgh International Race Complex to that list of world-class tracks. Seriously, PittRace is one of the most underrated tracks in the United States. It’s also one of the most challenging and engaging drivers tracks you’ll ever take on.
PittRace broke ground in 2001 under its first name, BeaveRun Motorsports Complex. Its first section of track was a 1.6-mile road course, a kart track and a skid pad used for driver training and autocross. By 2006, there were plans to expand the track, but those plans likely were stalled by the Great Recession.
In 2011 Jim and Kathy Stout purchased the facility and renamed it Pittsburgh International Race Complex and began a series of improvements that have made the facility what it is. The Stouts added 1.2 miles of track and then repaved the north and south tracks and built a new timing and scoring building in 2017.
Looking at an aerial photo or a map doesn’t do the track justice. Turn 1 is a plunging downhill left-hander that leads to a rise that compresses the suspension and lets you carry a lot of speed out of Turn 1 and over Turn 2. Turns 3 and 4 are comparable to the Corkscrew at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and probably a little more difficult because it takes a dab of brake to get through the right-hand Turn 4.
Turn 4 dumps you into a 80-plus-foot downhill run into heavily cambered turns 5 and 6, which lead right to an 80-plus-foot uphill climb to a 1,200-plus-foot straightaway. At the end of the straight, turns 7 through 11 present a series of esses that are challenging to get right. Like a lot of esses on a lot of tracks around the country, they are critical to fast laps. If you get one wrong, it affects the rest of them.
Turn 12 is an uphill right-hander that leads you to blind rises through turns 13 and 14. Car placement here is critical to be able to get back to full throttle through Turn 15 and down another 1,00-foot straightaway.
There’s a slight kink before Turn 17, the slowest corner on the track, which shoots uphill to the last two turns and back onto the front straight, the longest on the track at 1,569 feet. Then you get to do it all over again. Oh, and the curbs are smooth and incredibly useful.
On Friday night, there was a TREC race. For the weekend festivities, there was huge field of Camaro-Mustang Challenge cars, rumored to be the biggest field ever assembled at one event, with 23 cars taking the green on Saturday. This being the Great Lakes Region, Spec Iron was well represented. Of course, Spec Miata, Spec3 and the Thunder Roadsters put on a good show with some genuinely tight racing, and Super Unlimited fielded seven cars. On Saturday night, author Ross Bentley and NASA Great Lakes chief instructor Eric Meyer led a track walk.
Seeing an owner make continual investments and improvements in a race facility is always rewarding, and PittRace had another new building nearing completion during our visit. If you get the chance to drive at PittRace, by all means do it. Like High Plains Raceway in Deer Trail, Colo., PittRace is relatively little known yet is one of the best driver’s tracks you’ll ever experience. It is the definition of a hidden gem.
Set among the lush and verdant rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, PittRace has a lot to offer. Oh, and if you’re a fan of architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece home, Fallingwater, is just an hour and a half southeast of the track, and definitely worth a side trip. The place even has parking facilities large enough for your RV and trailer.
Here’s a selection of scenes from the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic event at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in July.